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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

394              THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

Whilst the child in its earliest years (two years and a little
more) is capable of miraculous achievements simply by his uncon-
scious absorbing power, whilst he is immobile, after the age of
three he becomes capable of obtaining a great deal of knowledge
by his own efforts in exploring his surroundings. It is in this
period that he seizes things by his own activity, and lays hold of
his mental world as if he were gathering it with his two hands.

He has not yet, however, acquired that maturity which enables
him later to learn through the speech of an adult. This is the
reason why the small child has been considered incapable of
profiting by the teaching of the ordinary school.

But it is certain that things gained during the absorbing period
are those which are fixed, not in the memory, but in the living
organism, when they become the guide for the formation of the
mind, for the character of the individual. Hence if educational
help can be given at that age it must be through the environment,
and not through oral teaching. What is taken in by the child in
the form of culture is like a permanent victory which kindles a
blaze of enthusiasm, as if he were launched into a sudden con-
flagration. From this childhood-culture sparks of intelligence are
given off which lead to expansion, to more victories in the
future.

That is the age during which man works without growing
weary and takes in knowledge like a life-giving food. Without
the possibility of functioning in accordance with the mental char-
acters which nature has furnished as a key to the secret of the
creation of a human intelligence, the child suffers and deviates
from normality.

Today psychologists are beginning to recognize a form of
" mental starvation " in difficult children, who seem to be arrested
in their development and to have wandered from the straight way
which human development ought to follow.

The surprising results obtained in our schools and described
in these pages are therefore not caused by a more perfect method
of education, they are the exponents of a special mental form, of